SSN Commentary

The Change Higher Education Needs Today

Policy field

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Wellesley College
University of Rhode Island

Originally published as "The Change Higher Education Needs Today," Inside Higher Ed, May 13, 2022.

In Texas, the second-highest-ranking state official has warned of looming legislation threatening tenure in public colleges and universities and making it a fireable offense to teach critical race theory, or CRT. Such attacks on CRT at institutions of higher learning seem to be gaining ground. While the national political debate on CRT rages on, one aspect that remains relatively undiscussed has been the impact of those attacks on Black and Indigenous scholars and other academics who are people of color.

The sort of threats being made by the Texas politician to the larger academic structure are not new. As Piya Chatterjee and Sunaina Maira argue in The Imperial University, repression and intimidation of BIPOC faculty, in fact, existed long before politicians threatened the independence and academic freedom of colleges and universities on the basis of their attention to systemic racism. But we must now work harder than ever to try to mitigate the danger that BIPOC faculty face. While their work has long been subject to higher visibility and different standards of evaluation than their white colleagues’, even their academic freedom and free speech protections are at risk today as civility is weaponized against them.